DEV Community

loading...

Using irb (Interactive Ruby Shell) for Examples

burdettelamar profile image Burdette Lamar ・2 min read

Like most of us, I've usually done code examples thus:

  • Display code as highlighted block.
  • (Sometimes) display command as highlighted block.
  • Display output as highlighted block.

Lately, I've been experimenting with using irb, the Interactive Ruby Shell, to build examples. In irb, I can show how values change as a program progresses.

To illustrate, I'll use a small Ruby script that does some work on hashes.

Ruby Session Input

This code is in a file that will be fed to irb as input. As the code executes, it uses method Kernel#p to display and re-display values, showing how they have changed:

# Create and display two hashes.
h0 = {:a => 0, :b => 1}
p h0
h1 = {:b => 2, :c => 3}
p h1

# Merge the second hash into the first.
h0.merge!(h1)
p h0

# Add an element.
h0.store(:d, 4)
p h0

# Remove an element.
h0.delete(:b)
p h0

Session Output

Here's the session output:

# Create and display two hashes.
h0 = {:a => 0, :b => 1}
p h0
{:a=>0, :b=>1}
h1 = {:b => 2, :c => 3}
p h1
{:b=>2, :c=>3}

# Merge the second hash into the first.
h0.merge!(h1)
p h0
{:a=>0, :b=>2, :c=>3}

# Add an element.
h0.store(:d, 4)
p h0
{:a=>0, :b=>2, :c=>3, :d=>4}

# Remove an element.
h0.delete(:b)
p h0
{:a=>0, :c=>3, :d=>4}

Another Treatment

The "sections" in the code above are small, so showing the entire output at once makes sense. For larger passages, it can make sense to interleave code and remarks.

I'll re-do the above:

Create and display two hashes:

h0 = {:a => 0, :b => 1}
p h0
{:a=>0, :b=>1}
h1 = {:b => 2, :c => 3}
p h1
{:b=>2, :c=>3}

Merge the second hash into the first:

h0.merge!(h1)
p h0
{:a=>0, :b=>2, :c=>3}

Add an element:

h0.store(:d, 4)
p h0
{:a=>0, :b=>2, :c=>3, :d=>4}

Remove an element:

h0.delete(:b)
p h0
{:a=>0, :c=>3, :d=>4}

The Bash Command

Here's the bash command that does the work:

cat session_input.rb | irb > session_output.irb

The breakdown:

  • The cat command puts the Ruby file session_input.rb onto stdout.
  • It's then piped as input to irb.
  • The stdout stream from irb is redirected to file session_output.irb.

Refinements

  • By default, the session output will echo each line of the Ruby input, which in this case is mostly just noise. I use option --noecho to suppress echoing.
  • The session output begins with the line Switch to inspect mode., which we don't need (or want). I use the tail command to remove it:

The complete command:

cat session_input.rb | irb --noecho | tail +2 > session_output.irb

The Windows cmd Command

type session_input.rb | irb --noecho > session_output.irb

There's no builtin tail utility (that I know of).

Discussion (1)

pic
Editor guide
Collapse
fernandomaia profile image
Fernando Maia

That bash shortcut is really useful. Thanks for sharing!